Sell clients add-on experiences in New Zealand and earn more commission for yourself. It’s a no-brainer, says Joanna Booth
One moment the sea was as flat as a pancake; the next, it was swarming. A pod of nearly 100 dusky dolphins were dancing through the waves next to our boat, leaping out of the water and racing one another.
This moment, on a whale-watching cruise off New Zealand’s South Island, is a memory I will treasure forever.
Experiences are the good guys of the add-ons market. Extras such as airport transfers and car hire are integral parts of a holiday, but the inconvenient truth is that most clients will only remember these if they don’t go according to plan.
Experiences bring a little magic to a trip, make lasting memories and are perfect photo moments. Create these for clients, and they’ll book with you again and again.
Happily, New Zealand is a land full of unforgettable experiences, and operators and ticketing specialists can make it easy for you to organise these in advance for clients. Why not suggest one of the options below?
Heli-hiking on Franz Josef Glacier
With a barely perceptible whoosh, we were in the air. Helicopters are the smoothest way to fly, and are a great way to view a glacier.
Swooping low, you can see the deep fissures and blue-ice caves running across its surface. It also allows you to miss out the slight muddy melting section at the bottom of the glacier, and head straight for the pristine blue and white world at the top.
After a short 15-minute flight, it’s time to alight and fit crampons to our stout boots. Our guide leads us off across the ice, explaining how the glacier was formed as he hacks a clearer path with a pick-axe through the towering pinnacles and fissures.
It doesn’t take long to get used to the stomping gait necessary to jab the crampon spikes into the solid ice, and we even climbed through an ice cave, sliding through the narrow chasm and marvelling at the intense blue ice all around.
The walk lasts an hour and a half and is suitable for anyone relatively fit. The pace is slow; there were guests in their 60s on our trip.
Sample product: Austravel offers a heli-hike Franz Josef trip with the Helicopter Line from Franz Josef Village from £188 per person. austravel.com, 0800 032 5492
Sail an America's Cup Yacht
“Grind!” We spin the handles of the winch on the command. The crew members are more than capable of sailing this beautiful former America’s Cup yacht themselves, but they’re happy to let guests help too.
There’s no better way to see Auckland, nicknamed City of Sails, than from the deck of one of these yachts on a sunny afternoon. A two-hour sailing experience lets you feel the wind in your hair, clinging on as the deck tilts to 45 degrees and enjoying the views of the city.
Sailing aficionados will relish the opportunity to snoop around the high-tech racing yacht; the uninitiated will just enjoy the thrill of the speed.
Sample product: Attraction World’s two-hour Sail New Zealand experience in Auckland costs from £79 per adult and £58 per child. attractionworld.com, 0871 700 8888
Spot whales and dolphins
The sea off the coast of Kaikoura lies slap bang on the migration route from Antarctica to the tropics, and the water is so rich in nutrients that it’s like catnip for whales.
The chances of spotting a whale are so high – 95% – that operator Whale Watch Kaikoura offers an 80% refund if you don’t see one during your tour.
We spotted two giant sperm whales and managed to get close enough to both to see their barnacled skin and blunt heads, before they lifted their magnificent tails high into the air and dived under the waves.
Depending on the time of year, there’s also a good chance of spotting humpback, pilot, blue and southern right whales.
A typical tour might also see dusky dolphins, as we did, or find fur seals or an albatross.
The boats are large and in great condition, tearing out across the waves to the whales’ favourite spots.
Passengers stay inside while the boat is moving – it goes pretty fast – but there’s plenty of deck space, so everyone gets a good view when a whale is sighted and the boat stops.
Sample product: Qantas Holidays offers a cruise with Whale Watch Kaikoura that last three and a half hours from £61 per adult and £26 per child. qantasholidays.co.uk/agents, 020 8222 9124
Kayak in Abel Tasman
The pristine and stunning Abel Tasman National Park is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful spots, with deserted beaches, wooded hills and deep blue sea.
Kayaks are fairly idiot-proof, and splashing around in one gets you up close to wildlife – we were inches away from a little blue penguin, which bobbed around and stared right back at us. You can also reach secluded beaches, and paddle directly up to the famous Split Apple Rock.
The Abel Tasman is a popular place for Kiwis to ‘tramp’, the local name for hiking. Bookable trips can combine kayaking and hiking, or even just involve a boat trip dropping clients off deep in the park where they can wander to their heart’s content until they’re picked up again.
Sample product: Anzcro offers a full-day kayak and walk itinerary from £69, including kayaking equipment and a return boat trip from Kaiteriteri into the park for unguided walking. anzcro.co.uk, 01872 266899
Other great experiences
Book clients a cruise on Milford or Doubtful Sounds. These breathtakingly beautiful narrow channels wind their way, flanked by steep cliffs on either side, from inland Fjordland to the coast.
Suggest a wine tour so clients can sip their way through some of the best Kiwi vintages at the cellar door. Choose North Island’s Hawkes Bay for cabernet sauvignons and merlots, and Marlborough on South Island for those famous sauvignons blancs.
Let clients float among icebergs on the terminal lake of the Tasman Glacier, in the shadow of Aoraki, New Zealand’s highest peak. You can also book a boat trip through the Hermitage Hotel.